Monday, May 27, 2024
HomeCulture WarWanted: First Minister of Scotland. Christians need not apply

Wanted: First Minister of Scotland. Christians need not apply


BEFORE announcing that she was withdrawing from the race to be Scotland’s First Minister, Kate Forbes was given a taste of the opposition she would have faced. Writing in the Times on TuesdayEdinburgh-based Kenny Farquharson expressed the respectable middle-class progressive liberal view that whoever becomes the next First Minister, it couldn’t be a Bible-believing Christian.

Since devolution Scotland has had people of differing faiths and none as First Minister without their religious belief being questioned. Our outgoing First Minister, Humza Yousaf, is a Muslim who on his first evening in Bute House, the official residence, held an Islamic prayer meeting with his male relatives. The fact that no women are allowed to join such prayers was ignored by our media who usually can be counted on to leap on this. To point out Muslim misogyny would go against the narrative that Yousaf’s elevation proved how wonderfully multicultural Scotland is. For the progressive Islam is acceptable, genuine Presbyterianism is not.

Polls show that John Swinney, who was Deputy First Minister from 2014 until the end of March 2023, is leading the race to succeed Yousaf. Swinney’s time as SNP party leader between 2000 and 2004 was marked by electoral decline and he was forced to resign. Nevertheless he is seen by the SNP membership as a safe pair of hands; safer than Kate Forbes anyway.

This would have been a good election to lose as the SNP are heading for significant losses in the next Westminster and Scottish elections. In Scotland generally, Kate Forbes had been favoured as the new head of government. What eludes our progressive elites is that the people of Scotland still tend to be small ‘c’ conservative when it comes to social matters and are unhappy with the progressive stance the SNP have taken. Forbes can afford to bide her time and wait for Swinney to fail again.

Anything goes in Scotland, apparently, except for believing Christians. Farquharson’s animus against Kate Forbes is not that she is a Christian but that she is a Christian who actually believes what the Bible teaches. As with the rest of the UK, genuine Christian faith has become the new heresy in Scotland. In this the progressives are aided by the mainstream churches which accept progressive ideology as the lens through which they interpret the Bible. As a result the bishops and powerbrokers of the legacy churches are acting like hospital chaplains blessing Europe’s euthanasia. 

I have to confess that like Kate Forbes I am a member of the Free Church of Scotland. The Wee Frees, as we are popularly known amongst the sneering classes, still hold to the teaching of Scripture. This includes the necessity of salvation and the need for repentance, the existence of a real heaven and hell and that the Bible is our supreme rule in faith and life. The Free Church has a biblical view of morality, including sexual morality. The progressive elites can stomach the surface appearance of Christianity but they cannot endure the reality, and reject it with horror as being incompatible with modern life.

This is what is so frightening about the left-wing progressives of today: they believe they are nice middle-class liberals, pure of intent and good of heart. They believe that the line between right and wrong, good and evil, passes between themselves and the Bad People. They are perpetually on the side of good and if you are not on their side then you are one of the Bad People.

They live in a black-and-white world and are incapable of seeing that we all are able to do right and wrong, good and evil; that this is the human condition. We are seeing the emergence of the future of the West, a future in which believing Christians are seen as the Bad People. We are seeing the emergence of a time when nice middle-class liberal progressives will do what they can to rid the world of the influence of the Bad People.

We are entering what Aaron Renn calls the negative world. First there was the ‘positive’ world in which Christianity was held in high cultural esteem; the second was the ‘neutral’ world in which Christianity was reasonably tolerated in wider culture; finally comes the ‘negative’ world in which culture is openly hostile to Christianity.

Renn urges individuals to pursue obedience, excellence, and resilience. There must also be a renewed commitment to being a source of truth and light in the world. This latter involves more than speaking truth but demands that Christians embody the truth of Christ in our persons if we are to have an impact on a society with a negative view of Christians.

Living in the negative world means living as a religious minority in an anti-Christian environment. This carries dangers for our faith. In this situation we have to be prudent when engaging in political and cultural debates, and pick our battles carefully. Those who are unwilling to defy the prevailing orthodoxy will eventually succumb to it, but those who do defy the prevailing orthodoxy will eventually be crushed by it. 

This is where the danger lies for any Christian conviction politician like Kate Forbes: how far should they go, where should they bend in order to get positive policies passed? Far from being the bigoted fundamentalist portrayed by Farquharson, Kate Forbes voted to continue with the ‘Named Person’ scheme, which would have appointed a state-selected ‘guardian’ for every child under 18 in Scotland, thus undermining parental rights. She voted in support of the Hate Crime Bill, which carries potentially troubling implications for free speech. That she voted for exclusion zones around abortion clinics counted for nothing when she said she would have voted against homosexual marriage.

Hard decisions have to be made. Forbes is in a position where she can be excluded from power if she pursues too obviously a Christian line, or alternatively she can lose her own integrity if she compromises too much. The same problem exists for everyday Christians like us: when should we hold our tongues with our friends and neighbours and when should we speak out? How do we walk the line?

Increasing pressure from the world is offering us a chance to step back and evaluate our beliefs and think hard about our future. Do our beliefs accord with Scripture and with general revelation in the world around us? Do we have the spiritual resources to navigate an increasingly negative society? Do we have the supportive fellowship we will need when under pressure? While we have time, we should think hard about such questions.

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Dr Campbell Campbell-Jack
Dr Campbell Campbell-Jack
Campbell is a retired Presbyterian minister who lives in Stirlingshire. He blogs at A Grain of Sand.

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